Gavin Hayhurst, AIRCOM Q&A: Optimum network performance

AIRCOM talks to Capacity about the increasing importance of network planning and optimisation.

How did AIRCOM’s partnership with Orange help support the operator’s LTE network deployment?

We have a longstanding relationship with Orange, as we deployed our planning tool across its 2G and 3G networks. ASSET is a radio network planning tool that allows seamless and reliable integration to systems such as inventory, site acquisition, site roll-out, configuration management and performance management.

This sharing of data provides signiaircficant improvements in planning accuracy and drives greater business process efficiency. Incorporating ASSET into its LTE planning ensures Orange is able to prepare for the new technology, while managing the existing networks.

How does this solution differ to others on the market?

There are other providers of radio network planning tools, but there are a number of features which distinguish our offering. The primary differentiator is the ability to easily integrate with the rest of our tools portfolio, as well as third-party tools through our SOA based interface.

This improves the planning process by providing actual performance and configuration data from the network to the planning engineers, on which they can base design decisions. It also streamlines business processes by automatically supplying network design data to systems such as online coverage checkers, inventory management systems and network roll-out tools.

How else does AIRCOM help support the carrier community?

We are the largest independent provider of network planning, optimisation and OSS software. We also provide consultancy services to mobile networks. With offices in 14 countries, we provide local and regional viewpoints and resource, as well as ensuring that our customers benefit from our global knowledge. Analysys Mason included us in a report as the market leader in the provision and deployment of network engineering tools, as our products are in use across 155+ countries by over half of the world’s mobile operators.

Do you feel that LTE adoption has lagged across Europe in general?

LTE roll-out has been slower than expected across Europe (especially when compared to the US), but I think this has more to do with the current macroeconomic climate and the availability of spectrum than operator appetite or end-user demand. Where it has been deployed, many operators have been pleasantly surprised by the uptake.

I think that in terms of operators, the status quo has pretty much been maintained, with the historical early adopters moving to LTE first. The new technology has however provided an opportunity for the equipment vendors and it seems those with lower market share in Europe, like Huawei and to a lesser extend Alcatel-Lucent, have benefitted.

How do you expect LTE to develop across Europe in the future?

I expect the mobile data growth trend to continue, as more and more people use data on the move instead of waiting until they have access to fixed data. Within a 2-4 year time line, most operators across Europe and North America will have adopted LTE and covered a significant portion of their subscribers. Africa, CALA and APAC will most likely follow, with most operators moving to LTE in the 3-7 year time frame.

LTE-Advanced will be the next logical step, once operators have mature LTE networks (or if they are looking to leapfrog competition) and will offer more speed, more capacity and will have features to make better use of heterogeneous networks, specifically small cells.

The primary driver for the adoption of LTE-Advanced will be the fact that it allows for non-contiguous spectrum to be aggregated, to allow more bandwidth and therefore higher throughputs. This will allow operators to keep pace with user demand for mobile data and within 10 years I think the vast majority of leading operators will have built LTE-Advanced networks.

What will be AIRCOM’s key focus in 2014?

We always have a large number of on-going projects, whether that includes upgrading our existing customers or expanding our customer base with new product deployments. Our focus for 2014 will be to continue to help operators optimise their networks and realise maximum return on investment from them.

More specifically, this will mean focussing on assisting customers looking to adopt or expand their LTE networks, as well as those looking to deploy small cells. From a product point of view, we will be pushing hard to grow the adoption of our SON product.

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